Ethics Check Questions

The Ethics Check Questions developed by Blanchard and Peale (1988) provide a personal framework as well as a practical one.

  1. Is it legal? Will actions violate any laws, codes, or constitutional rights?
  2. Is it balanced? Is my decision fair to everyone concerned?
  3. How will I feel about myself? Will it withstand public scrutiny?

Question 1: Is it legal?

The purpose of this question is to get you to look at existing standards. The legality of the decision should be examined not just from the civil law perspective, but also with regard to district policies or standards and any collective bargaining agreements that may be in place with a union or unions representing a party or parties who are involved. If the answer to this first question is no, there isn’t much need to ask the following two questions. If it isn’t legal, if it violates district policy, or if your planned decision violates any term of an existing collective agreement, you need to seek legal advice or discuss the situation with your district officer responsible for the policy in question, or for administering or advising on collective agreements.

Question 2: Is it balanced?

The purpose of this question is to evaluate your decision based on your sense of fairness and rationality. Will the decision be fair or will it heavily favor one party over another, in the both the short-term and the long-term? Decisions that produce big winners, at the expense of making others big losers, often come back to haunt you. It’s not always possible to make decisions where everybody wins, but leaders should strive to avoid major imbalances over the course of their relationships.

Question 3: How will I feel about myself?

This question is designed to help you focus on your own emotions, standards, and sense of morality and intrinsic values. How would you feel if this decision was about you? How would you feel it what you are thinking of doing is published on the front page of the local newspaper or broadcast on local television? Would it make you and your family proud or embarrassed? If you’re losing sleep over the situation, it’s probably an indication that your conscience is wrestling with the decision and its alignment with your personal values.

Even when faced with emotionally charged and gut-wrenching issues, the leader must do what he or she believes is morally and ethically correct. Leaders must be able to go to sleep at night knowing that they have remained true to their moral convictions (Hackmann, Schmitt-Oliver, & Tracy, 2002).

There is no right way to do a wrong thing.”
Blanchard and Peale, The Power of Ethical Management


Using the Strategies

Apply the Nine Checkpoints to help clarify the issue and the use the Ethics Check Questions to resolve the following dilemma:

A verbal argument between a substitute teacher and a student escalates. The teacher attempts to prevent the student from leaving the classroom by holding him by the shoulders. The student retaliates by pushing the teacher. The teacher strikes the student.

A neighboring classroom teacher takes over the class and sends the substitute teacher to the principal to report the incident. The student has since disappeared. The other students are upset and want to talk about the incident, and the inappropriateness of the substitute teacher’s behavior.

The substitute teacher is very emotional about the altercation. He tells the story of how the student was rude and belligerent. When the substitute teacher indicated that he had, “better things to do than babysit a group of rude teenagers,” the student in question had responded, “Well, you don’t have to babysit me,” and had attempted to leave the room.

The substitute teacher admitted his actions were not appropriate. Had he just let the student leave the room, the altercation would not have happened. The substitute teacher confirmed that the student pushed him, but did not injure him physically.

The student in this incident had been disciplined on more than one occasion for insubordination, and for rude and disrespectful behavior toward his teachers. When the student is finally found after the altercation, he confirms the substitute teacher’s story in an interview with the principal. He too is unhurt, but he does have a red mark on his jaw where he was struck by the substitute teacher.

What are you going to do?


Create a document in MS Word format (.doc or .docx) and propose, in 2,000 to 2,500 words, a resolution to this dilemma using the strategies provided above. Answer the following Ethics Check Questions in responding to this dilemma:

  1. Is it legal? Will actions violate any laws, codes, or constitutional rights?
  2. Is it balanced? Is my decision fair to everyone concerned?
  3. How will I feel about myself? Will it withstand public scrutiny?

When you have completed your response, use the the tool provided below to upload a copy of your completed work.